On Eternal Life and Eternal Death.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Eternal Life and Eternal Death.
To-day, my soul, hasten forward on the wings of thought to the consummation of ages, to that moment when time will be at an end, when all that appertains to earth will cease to exist, when there will be nothing before us but eternity. This new order of things commences at the close of the final judgment. Represent to yourself the scene when the Eternal Judge rises up from the judgment-seat with all the angels and the elect, to ascend into the kingdom of His Father, whilst the devils and all the lost souls in their train are precipitated for ever into the pool burning with fire and brimstone.
1st. Consider the glorious entry of the elect into the kingdom of Heaven. Imagine yourself to be passing with them through the golden portals of those celestial halls; what a beauteous, what a brilliant procession you are joining! Christ Himself, in the dazzling brightness of His unspeakable majesty enters into the heavenly Jerusalem; He returns to that eternal city attended by countless hosts of angels, accompanied by His blessed Mother, followed by the admirable company of the patriarchs and prophets, by radiant bands of martyrs in lustrous array, by white-robed virgins bearing lilies in their hands, surrounded by the glorious apostles and an innumerable multitude of saints and chosen souls. How the courts of heaven will ring with the songs of praise raised by these triumphal hosts as they enter in! “I heard,” St. John says, “as it were the voice of a great multitude and as the voice of great thunders, saying, Alleluia; for the Lord our God Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice and give glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb is come.” (Ap. xix. 6, 7.) Yes, it is to the nuptials of the Lamb, to the eternal bridal feast in the glorious city of God that they are entering in, the city of which St. John says that it shines like to the jasper stone and to crystal, that its gates are pearls, its streets pure gold like unto transparent glass, and the glory of God is the light thereof. How the redeemed will rejoice at this unspeakable blissful sight! The mere entry into the heavenly Jerusalem will of itself richly compensate to them for the way of the cross which they trod on earth.
2d. Consider the awful downfall of the damned into hell. What an utterly different scene we now look upon! The bright day is transformed into dark night, the glad songs of joy are exchanged for savage howls, the despair of the lost is substituted for the bliss of the redeemed whom we have just seen entering into the possession of their reward. No sooner has the Eternal Judge uttered His terrible mandate: “Depart from Me,” than the mouth of hell opens and the lost souls look down into it, look down with horror into the yawning abyss of darkness, into “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone,” into the “land of misery and darkness where the shadow of death and no order but everlasting horror dwelleth.” (Job x. 22.) Into this furnace, where is “howling and gnashing of teeth,” into this dungeon where “their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched” (Is. Ixvi. 24), into this kingdom of darkness and of death where the lost shall be “tormented with fire and brimstone and the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever, neither have they rest day nor night” (Ap. xiv. 11) the damned are now compelled to enter. Well may they turn with shuddering from such a place, well may they struggle and strive not to enter into this awful region: their horror, their resistance are alike futile. As our Lord once saw Satan as lightning fall from Heaven, so these unfortunate creatures, after the divine sentence has been pronounced upon them, are hurled without hope of present rescue or future release into the frightful abyss which closes upon them for ever. My soul, remember that it is yet within your power to save yourself from that terrible fall. But perhaps to-day is your last chance, to-morrow your efforts may be too late.
3d. Consider, as far as it is possible for us mortals to form any conception of it, the state of things that will then prevail. Endeavor to realize what it will be when time is no more, when the seasons cease their changes. Day no longer follows night, summer no longer succeeds to winter. Man’s condition is no longer that of a pilgrim upon earth, life’s journey is at an end, he will no more experience the vicissitudes of prosperity and adversity. There are now only two states immutably fixed and eternally unchangeable; everlasting day in Heaven and everlasting night in hell; everlasting happiness or everlasting torment. Eternal light for the redeemed, eternal darkness for the lost. The blessed on high, united to God, chant unending hosannas, whilst the damned below, whom God has banished from His presence, utter piteous howls and gnash their teeth. In short on the one hand is eternal life, on the other eternal death. Think for a moment of all that is fair and pleasing and consoling connected with our idea of life, and then think of the horror and dread, of the corruption and decay, the grief and misery which the word death suggests to the mind; you will then more fully appreciate the meaning of everlasting life and everlasting death. Centuries will pass, tens of thousands of years, nay eons of ages will elapse, and when they have gone by, eternal life and eternal death will only have begun their course. Is it possible that after meditating upon truths so solemn and serious you can yet, during this short span, of time, heedlessly stake your whole eternity? Do you not hear this warning voice speaking to your heart, crying to you: “I call Heaven and earth to witness this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life.” (Deut. xxx. 19.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
A Week for the Poor Souls:
Prayer for Thursday
O Lord, God Almighty, I beseech Thee by the precious Body and Blood of Thy Divine Son Jesus, which He gave with His own hand, upon the eve of His Passion, to His beloved Apostles, to be their meat. and drink, and which He left to His whole Church, to be a perpetual sacrifice and life-giving food of His faithful people: deliver the souls in purgatory, and especially that soul which was most devoted to this mystery of infinite love; that it ever may praise Thee by the same, with Thy Divine Son, and with the Holy Ghost in Thy eternal glory. Amen.
Our Father, and Hail Mary.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
De Profundis for the Faithful Departed (Ps. 129)
Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice.
Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
If Thou, O Lord, shalt mark our iniquities: O Lord, who shall stand it?
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness: and by reason of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath relied on His word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even unto night, let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with Him plenteous redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
V. Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
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